Jaswinder Singh Advocate, Member SGPC asked me for some suggestions on their desire to set up a Sikh news service. I had met Hindustan Samachar Executive Officer Ashutosh Bhatnagar at Jaipur and asked him if he could visit me during my stay at Delhi. He did come over and we had an informative discussion. Their experience is summed up below.
Hindustan Samachar was set up in Dec 1948 at the initiative of Shivram Shankar Apte, also known as Dadasaheb Apte who was a lawyer by profession. The ideals inspiring this project were to create a source to supply news in various Indian languages by an agency that was inspired, motivated and informed by ‘the true spirit of Bharatiya nationalism, pride in Bharatiya sanskriti [Indian culture] and her glorious past and the one that reflected in its approach the Indian ethos and aspirations.’
It received early support from Purushotam Das Tandon and Vinobha Bhave who had espoused the cause of Indian languages. The support also came from Rajendra Prasad, Govind Vallabh Pant, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Hare Krishna Mehtab, Ram Subhag Singh, Takhat Mal Jain, R R Diwakar, H C Mathur, S N Ghosh, Sarojini Mahishi, Jaisukh Lal Hathi, J B Pattnayak, P C Barua and several other eminent people.
Dada saheb initially got a lot of support from a dedicated group of reporters working in the deep interior villages and the news gathering and transmission operations took root in all states plus Khatmandu in Nepal and Thimpu in Butan. It also had a strong presence in the NE where other news agencies were not present and significantly the first reporting of the Chinese invasion in Thagla ridge area in Sep 1962 came through Hindustan Samachar. It also was the main news source for and on Nepal till Nelalese set up their own news agency.
The well known journalists associated with the agency were S Vidyalankar [Dharam Yug], S K Gupta [Aaj], Naryan Chaturvedi [Saraswati], Akshay Kumar Jain [Nav Bharat Times], and others from Dainik Hindustan, Pioneer, Htavad, Vishwamitra, Amar Ujala, Jan-Gan, Lokvani, Gandiv, Mathribhumi, Vegetarian India, Kirloskar Patrilka etc.
It was their initiative that led to transmission of news in Devanagiri in 1954 over teleprinter lines. This made news available to small local and regional papers and thus the advantage was snatched from major English news media. This also led to the growth of vernacular press in smaller and distant locations.
In 1956 the agency coverted to a coop society possibly the first among news services. In 1975 during the Emergency the Government formed Samachar agency and merged HS with it. Being a forced merger it was spun away in 1978 after lifting of the Emergency. Due several legal hurdles it could re emerge into operations only in 2002.
Summary of information gathered from Ashutosh:
- HS has 16 offices in the country as of Mar 2006. These are expected to be doubled in the next two years. They place the need of offices at 600; one for each district in the country.
- The number of correspondents is 100 including the interior. This obviously is not enough for a wider coverage.
- Their expenses presently are around 7 to 8 million per month against an income of 2 to 3 million. Thus there is a running deficit of 5 to 6 million per month.
- The newspaer clients is 100 mainly Marathi, Ooriya, Gujrati and Assamese besides Hindi which provides the core. They expect this number to go up to 250 in 6 months or so.
- They have an MOU with EU news agency in Brussels. They do not have any foreign news paper as a client.
- They seek help by offering a share of the coop @ Rs 100 per share with a minimum batch of 11 shares or a contribution of Rs 1100. Shares have no cash value.
- Subscriptions are invited by newspapers, individuals, associations etc. These provide access thru a password to their releases. Indian news papers are charged a minimum of Rs 5000 pm for subscription.
- The trust ‘Rashtriya Patarkarita Kalyan Nyas’ has been set up under Sec 80[G]; tax exempt status.